Vietnam is banking on domestic tourists to boost the fortunes of the tourism industry, especially in terms of ensuring its stable growth, the Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper reported.

The “Vietnamese people travel across Vietnam” campaign was officially launched on July 7 with the target of encouraging domestic tourists to visit key destinations, especially remote and mountainous areas and islands.

Nguyen Van Tuan, Head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), said that during the currently difficult times of the country, the domestic tourism will be the key to the industry’s continued growth.

He said the domestic tourism segment has already done very well with localities nationwide welcoming 35 million visitors last year, creating strong momentum for future growth. The new campaign aims to have this segment make up of any shortfall in international visitors, he added.

“It is reasonable to say that it is not necessary to travel great distances at great expense. You can experience and discover interesting things in Vietnam. Our fatherland is gorgeous from Meo Vac, a tourist site in the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang to Ca Mau, the most shouthern tip of Vietnam, with incredibly beautiful sceneries. We also have the diverse culture of 54 ethnic groups, ” Tuan said.

He noted that Vietnam’s long coast ranked it 27 out of 156 countries in the world with more than 100 beautiful beaches. “Every visit will enhance the visitor’s understanding of the country as also her/his love for it,” he said.

While the potential for domestic tourism yielding significant benefits is evident, it is not such a simple task at this time, experts have said.

Vu The Binh, who heads the Vietnam Travel Agents Association, said that the lack of coordination among economic sectors has reduced the competitiveness of Vietnam's tourism industry in the region.

"The local tourism companies are now worried about the big changes in domestic tour prices”, added Binh.

The prices of domestic tours are up about 30 – 50 percent because of rising input costs, including electricity, fuel and food, making it very difficult for travel companies to sell tours without suffering losses.

The situation is compounded by the fact that other markets in Asia are launching promotion campaigns with big discounts and attractive gifts.

“We just keep claiming that our country has beautiful sceneries or that domestic travel is a patriotic act without bringing out deeper changes by developing new tourism products and professional services,” Binh said.

With a market of 90 million people, Vietnam’s domestic tourism should be developed aggressively and outperform other countries in the region like Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, but the local industry has developed in a fragmented manner without strict management, he added.

In the coming time, relevant sectors should closely cooperate and work out a strategy to encourage domestic tourists.

According to data released by the VNAT, domestic tourists reached 23.4 million in the first half of 2014, a year-on-year hike of 6.9 percent, bringing the country’s total tourism revenue in the reviewed period to 125 trillion VND (5.87 billion USD), up 22.5 percent from last year.-VNA